In a complex electoral process, the new parliament will elect president and prime minister.
A group of protesters gathered outside the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago on Friday, as US Attorney General Loretta Lynch presented the results of a 13-month investigation into the Department of Justice (DoJ) into Chicago Police misconduct. One protester predicted the report would ?say that the Chicago police is guilty of a pattern and practice of constitutional violations of citizens of Chicago.” He went on “We know this, because it’s our reality, it’s what we live with every day.” Another protester continued, “one thing that I do have in common with the President-elect as it relates to the DoJ report; this is fake news. This report is fake news. We are well beyond systemic corruption and institutional racism with the Chicago police department.” The 164-page report revealed the Chicago Police department violated the constitutional fourth amendment as well as department policy in the use of deadly force. Lynch condemned Chicago police for engaging in a “pattern” of using “unjustified, disproportionate and otherwise excessive” force. Moreover, investigators said the Chicago Police force did not provide officers with proper guidance for using force, did not properly investigate improper uses of force and did not hold officers accountable for such incidents.
Official Moscow continues to deny using compromising materials to target politicians, but the practice is actually so pervasive in Russia there is even a word for it — kompromat.
The dossier, initially posted online by Buzzfeed, claims that Russia has compromising information on the president-elect, including, among other things, a variety of sexual and financial allegations.
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The dossier, purportedly prepared by a former British intelligence agent hired by Trump’s political opponents, has been roundly denounced by Trump, who tweeted on Friday: “Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans — FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists…”
“It’s not that kompromat is always gathered on purpose,” Gennady Gudkov, a retired Federal Security Service (FSB) colonel and a former opposition parliamentarian, told USA TODAY.
“Say a person stayed at a room in a hotel that was already bugged and started doing things he shouldn’t be doing. And then it turns out the person was famous. It’s a matter of luck for [the security services], and material like this can surface on anyone,” he said.
“You don’t even have to be a person of interest. They just gather everything like a vacuum cleaner and then see what they can use.”
Given the opportunistic tendencies of the Russian security services, just how paranoid should business people or tourists travelling here be?
“The moral of the story is don’t book the most expensive rooms and suites — which are most likely to be used by the rich and powerful — if you want discretion,” said Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian security at the Institute of International Relations in Prague in the Czech Republic.
“Seriously, the FSB hardly monitors foreigners with quite the same profligate enthusiasm as the KGB, but it will make an exception for powerful and influential people. I’m not convinced they would have regarded Trump as worth watching in the earlier years, but he may well have put himself in the spotlight simply by his high-doling habits.”
The more pervasive practice is gathering dirt as a means of internal repression — and a number of opposition figures have borne the brunt of deliberately-orchestrated sex scandals.
In 1999, a sex video featuring someone who looked like the then-prosecutor general, Yuri Skuratov, and two prostitutes was aired on national television. It came shortly after Skuratov launched a number of corruption probes. against officials in then-president Boris Yeltsin’s government.
The scandal ended when Skuratov was dismissed the following year amid pressure from the newly-elected Putin, who had been head of the FSB when the videotape emerged.
In 2010, Ilya Yashin, a prominent opposition leader, said he wasn’t too surprised when a girl he had been dating for a few weeks turned out to be a honey trap.
“It was a surprise when she invited me to her apartment and there was [another girl] and they both dragged me to bed,” he wrote of the incident on his blog. “I would be lying if I said I resisted.”
Yashin knew something was afoot when Katya Gerasimova, his girlfriend, brought out a bunch of sex toys.
“That was the first time I thought it was a provocation. ‘Should I smile? Are we being filmed by a hidden camera?'” he wrote.
They were being recorded and Yashin became one of a number of opposition figures — including the liberal Viktor Shenderovich and the nationalist Eduard Limonov— who were shown on national television having sex. The same woman — Gerasimova — featured in all the videos.
“Our security services are using these tactics to discredit government opponents,” Gudkov said. He added that methods that are supposed to be used to protect the government from its “foreign enemies” are being turned on its own citizens.
“This surveillance is in violation of the constitution. This information is then given to certain media outlets and then the rumor mill starts,” he said.
Even if the “dirt” is innocuous, as it was with Yashin, the way the information is spun causes popularity ratings of the politicians involved to plummet, Gudkov said.
Last April, Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister and leader of the liberal People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS), was shown by the pro-Kremlin NTV channel having sex in a hotel room just as his party was preparing regional campaigns for parliamentary elections.
The video sought to expose not just the sex (Kasyanov is married), but his conversations with his partner Natalia Pelevina, an opposition activist, in which they plotted building a front against fellow oppositionist, Alexei Navalny.
“As a result of this propaganda, the opposition’s negative rating is higher than its positive rating,” Gudkov said. “This is reflected in the political campaigns.”
While gathering dirt may be a staple of intelligence agencies everywhere, its aggressive use in Russia has been taken to a new level.
“How are the Russians different? Essentially by their greater willingness to take risks and possibly expend political capital by using kompromat,” Galeotti said.
Russia’s government, meanwhile, has persistently denied using these tactics. “Pulp fiction,” the presidential spokesman Peskov said earlier this week about the allegations.